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Gustave Moreau: Between Epic and Dream

Genevieve LACAMBRE

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ISBN 10: 0865591687 / ISBN 13: 9780865591684
Published by Art Institute of Chicago, 1999
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Bibliographic Details

Title: Gustave Moreau: Between Epic and Dream

Publisher: Art Institute of Chicago

Publication Date: 1999

Binding: Paperback

Book Condition:good

Edition: First.

About this title


Gustave Moreau (1826-1898) was one of the most influential and idiosyncratic painters of the nineteenth century. He developed a reputation as an artistic hermit, committed to a highly personal vision of painting that combined myth, mysticism, history, and a fascination with the bizarre and exotic. Yet Moreau was also a prominent public figure in the Paris art world, winning praise for exhibits at the Salon, becoming a respected teacher at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, and exerting a powerful influence on Henri Matisse, Georges Rouault, and the schools of Symbolism and Surrealism. This book, published to coincide with a spectacular international exhibition that marks the centenary of Moreau's death, presents a wide range of the artist's most famous and beautiful works along with penetrating essays and catalogue entries that explain his unique achievements in all their intellectual complexity and visual richness.

The volume reproduces and describes in detail more than 200 of Moreau's works, ranging from such well-known paintings as Orpheus and The Apparition (one of his many treatments of Salome and the beheaded John the Baptist) to lesser known but revealing watercolors, drawings, and sculptures. Two particularly important paintings--Oedipus and the Sphinx and Hercules and the Lernaean Hydra--are the focus of longer descriptions that cast light on Moreau's working methods. Geneviève Lacambre, Director of the Musée Gustave Moreau in Paris, introduces the volume and contributes an essay about Moreau's passionate interest in the "exoticism" of other cultures, particularly those of Persia and India. Marie-Laure de Contenson describes the artist's powerful attraction to medieval art and aesthetics. Larry Feinberg shows that Moreau was deeply influenced by the Italian Renaissance and, in particular, Leonardo and Michelangelo. Douglas Druick writes about Moreau's evocative symbolic language, which drew on unique reinterpretations of mythical figures and events to convey the artist's anxieties about the immorality and materialism of his age.

This is a powerfully written and visually stunning record of the creativity and exquisite craftsmanship of Moreau's distinctive contributions to nineteenth-century art.


Nineteenth-century French painter Gustave Moreau's (1826-1898) epic paintings, filled with rich imagery culled from mythology, history, and his own vivid imagination, are well known to today's art viewers. Yet this painter, who is still popular more than a century after his death and was a powerful member of the art world of his day, was in fact obsessively private about his artistic vision. Moreau's solitary pursuit of a painting style that he termed peinture épique ("epic painting") stood in opposition to contemporary trends of academic naturalism and impressionism. The artist carefully researched the elements in each of his paintings, but was motivated too by a quest for "the infinite" in art--that which cannot be put into words, the sublime. His use of brilliant, jewel-like colors, sensitively rendered gestural drawing, and complex compositions helped him both to depict an ideal world and explore the salient issues of his times--morality and the foibles of earthly existence among them.

Between Epic and Dream was published in conjunction with the first full retrospective of Moreau's work, presented during the spring and summer of 1999 at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, after the centennial of his death. Three informative essays investigate the painter's interest in Indian and Persian culture as well as other historical eras such as the Middle Ages and the Italian Renaissance. A fourth essay examines Moreau's relationship to the symbolist movement, upon which his work would have a profound influence. At a substantial 308 pages, this stunning cloth-covered hardback displays over 200 of Moreau's masterpieces and lesser-known works in 162 color plates and 129 duotone images. --A.C. Smith

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